Friday Night Lights (movie sequence)
Friday Night Lights (TV show, Season One title sequence)
Band of Brothers (TV show, title sequence)
Explosions in the Sky, 'Your Hand in Mine' (The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, 2003)
Michael Kamen, 'Band of Brothers Theme' (Band of Brothers OST, 2001)
There's nothing like a good TV show, and that's including a good book (by H.G. Bessinger or Stephen E. Ambrose, respectively). Friday Night Lights, the Texan football drama, I've been watching for about a season and a half in total (now watching the latter half of the second season) and although I've neither read the original book nor seen the original movie, they obviously at least laid down a good foundation. Band of Brothers, the account of American 101st Airborne in Europe during the Second World War, I've seen in its entirety several times (even without buying the boxset), and having initially read the book as well; now I'm watching it again - courtesy of the BBC, who apparently felt the need following the 90th anniversary of the First World War armistice to put on a good - the best, really - war series.
What the two shows have in common is probably less than the sum of their obvious differences, but still significant: 1) they are both quintessentially American in focus (even if Band of Brothers had a lot of British actors, such as, of course, Damien Lewis, but also as I just noticed this time around, James McAvoy and Simon Pegg - briefly) and 2) they both have great soundtracks/scores. It is the latter feature which I will discuss here, but there's plenty I could say about the dramatic content of the shows as well. Even more than that, their visual style is great too - the unconventional, fragmented camerawork of Friday Night Lights, or the muted pallete of colours in the Band of Brothers cinematography (although the CGI looks a little dated now).
However, on to the musical themes: fellow Texans, Explosions in the Sky, wrote a lot of the music for the film version of Friday Night Lights, and while the TV show is scored by the well-known composer for television shows W.G. Snuffy Walden (he won an Emmy for his work on The West Wing), a considerable amount of the post-rock sound, to my ear, has been carried over. The title sequence for the TV version of Friday Night Lights has clear echoes of EitS's 'Your Hand in Mine' from the film, but throughout the show there are sections of sweeping, epic, and minor-keyed grandeur (supposedly Explosions in the Sky have been used for some situational music). Given that the show is a strange mix between a serious drama and a soap opera, the inclusion of a style so unconventional in terms of mainstream culture, yet tremendously familiar and expressive to my experience, is curiously effective (and affecting).
Band of Brothers has a similarly epic, but instead quasi-classical, score (composed by Michael Kamen, who died in 2003 and who also collaborated with Pink Floyd on The Wall). It too has contradictions: between stirring patriotism and harsh, even pessimistic realism, between the celebration of solidarity and mourning for individual tragedy, and between the confidence of democracy and the nihilism of war. A lot of these tensions are expressed in the theme, which navigates a sound neither jingoistic nor cynical, but instead somehow powerfully human.
The somewhat predictable strings are present, but do not totally predominate, and are matched by the choral, almost transcendent, element. The underlying melody, varied but insistently memorable, has a certain hymnal quality to it for me (memories of a secular Protestant culture experienced in childhood, in which church was a social and artistic as well as a religious event - and I guess the intent is equally to produce a 1940s, solidarist 'one nation under god' American feel). The soundtrack (pw - sharedmusic.net) has a set of two 'suites', expanded versions of the theme long beyond the two or three minutes of the title sequence - a fascinating exploration of the condensed television piece.